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Editorial Reviews

Paul Collins tells the story of the brutal, bloody murder of William Guldensuppe committed by his girlfriend and her lover. Narrator William Dufris gives a delightfully varied and nuanced performance. The book features the voices of a diverse cast of late-19th century New York characters, from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to a duck farmer in Woodside to employees of the Murray Hill bathhouse. Together, the characters tell the story of a gruesome crime that fueled a sensationalistic media juggernaut from the moment a group of young boys found a man's mutilated torso floating in the East River in New York City on a summer day in 1897. In Dufris' inventive performance, he expertly adopts the voice of the chillingly blasé murderers; then turns on a dime to describe, in a voice filled with wonder, the new forensic science that went into identifying the body. Dufris engages the listener by sounding as fascinated by the story as the author himself is.

It is vital that Dufris get the performances just right, since Collins has distinguished his book from other histories of the crime by telling the story of the investigation and trial largely through the voices of the people who were actually there. Collins carefully reconstructs their quotes into an intensely detailed narrative, and Dufris individualizes the voice of each witness, including the murder defendants themselves. Especially effective is his portrayal of one of the main defense attorneys in the story, William Howe, whom Dufris imbues with a bold, brash voice that enlivens the "Big Bill" persona that Collins describes. But Dufris is just as adept at capturing the macabre character of the women who, obsessed with the case, filled the sweltering courtroom gallery day after day to show their support for the dashing murder defendant, Martin Thorn. —Maggie Frank

Publisher's Summary

In Long Island, a farmer found a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discovered a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumbled upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime were turning up all over New York, but the police were baffled: There were no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most perplexing murder. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Re-creations of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio - an anxious cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor - all raced to solve the crime. What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim that the police couldn't identify with certainty - and that the defense claimed wasn't even dead.

The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale - a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.

©2011 Paul Collins (P)2011 AudioGo

Critic Reviews

“Wonderfully rich in period detail, salacious facts about the case and infectious wonder at the chutzpah and inventiveness displayed by Pulitzer’s and Hearst’s minions. Both a gripping true-crime narrative and an astonishing portrait of fin de siecle yellow journalism.” ( Kirkus Reviews)
"A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins’s intriguing look at the birth of 'yellow journalism' in late 19th-century New York. [A]n in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." ( Publishers Weekly)

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  • deborah
  • Palm Coast, FL, United States
  • 11-04-11

Great look at NYC crime, forensics, and journalism

This is a well narrated audiobook of murder, forensics, and the incredible power and resources of yellow journalism in NYC at the turn of the 20th century. Pulitzer and Hearst battle to scoop each other in a grisly murder of a mutilated German-American. Forensic and courtroom procedures are described in stark contrast to today's format. The story swirls around collusion between the police and reporters, the handling of evidence, the subject of abortion, the conditions of the Tombs jail, the consolidation of the five boroughs into one municipality, and the apex of yellow journalism where news is made, not reported. Great story, especially if you're from NYC.

33 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • 07-07-11

Well worth the credit!

A very "listenable" book, factual, but well presented, interesting and captivating. A fascinating history of a short period in journalism - perfectly read!

32 of 32 people found this review helpful

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Loved it

Didn't know what to expect. I had been looking for a book to spark my interest in audio again, and this was it. Very tight writing. Intriguing story intermingled with a background of newspaper rivalries. Narration was perfect.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Renee
  • Jacksonville, FL, United States
  • 11-28-11


I could listen to this story more than once, first for fast paced and interesting story and then the wonderful narrative reading. The story does get bit a graphic on the details of the murder but what would you expect, it's about a murder. The story never slows up and you are placed into that time period with fluidity of the story's timeline. I loved learning about the history of the papers and really enjoyed the writer including the epilogue. I will go out and buy the book to see if I missed anything. I love a book that makes you want to do more research on the time period because it opens your eyes to a different time.

28 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 02-12-14

Focus on a time and place

The real focus of this book is New York City at the turn of the 20th century. A ghastly crime and the ensuing investigation, trial and denouement serve as the occasion for the narrative, but the book uses these central events to immerse the reader in a very wide ranging evocation of the time and place. As melodramatic as many of the events and details may be, in the end this is a piece of well researched cultural history which gives one the sense of being set down in the middle of the chaos, the sights, the sounds, the smells and the swirling energy at the vortex of American turn-of-the-century dynamism.

This New York has spawned a gaggle of newspapers engaged in a cutthroat struggle for survival. It is a rich, bubbling brew of newly arrived European immigrants finding their place in a brash society which has just gotten a grip on its confidence and is changing at the speed of avaricious inspiration. It is a time when trial reports are transmitted to anxious newsrooms by both telephone and carrier pigeon. Scientific "experts" are finding their way onto witness stands, and American jurisprudence is celebrating its first superstar criminal attorneys. In short, this is an extremely interesting city!

If you are looking for a gripping true crime investigation, penetrating character studies or a probing examination of the newspaper wars, you will be somewhat disappointed. If you would be delighted to be delivered by time-machine to a fascinating city where a diver in a newfangled helmet is searching the bottom of the river for a severed head and where the grisly aspects of the recently introduced and quite inefficient electric chair are being hotly debated, this may be your cup of tea.

I found William Dufris' narration to be a bit labored and overwrought, perhaps in keeping with the lurid nature of some of the content. Still I would recommend the book to anyone who will enjoy a colorful and detailed glimpse of a moment in history.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Neal
  • PHOENIX, AZ, United States
  • 01-21-12

Great Crime Story

What did you love best about The Murder of the Century?

Being a history buff I was fascinated to listen to a story about how life was back at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th. I really enjoyed learning about how police work, and court proceedings how they differ (and for that matter how they led to today's forensic evidence handling) today.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Murder of the Century?

The description of the execution proceeding and it's aftermath.

Which scene was your favorite?

The description of the trial proceeding and how well it was arranged and conducted.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but it was fascinating.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Perfect summer read and possibly more

Details really bring the era to life without slowing the pace and pitch of the story, which unfolds like a police procedural and courtroom drama among other things. The author does not preach against sensationalism, but instead wisely shows us that even more than a century later, some have never managed to evolve (the brouhaha surrounding high-profile cases). Competent narration rounds out this perfect package.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • Charlottesville, VA, United States
  • 03-15-12

Very Interesting

If you could sum up The Murder of the Century in three words, what would they be?

Interesting, knowledgable, thorough

Who was your favorite character and why?

Defense council was portrayed very well by the narrator

What does William Dufris bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He had a great way of distinguishing each character's voice and brought out emotion in the dialogue. William Dufris did a great job!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The package no one wants to open

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian
  • Lexington, KY, United States
  • 10-05-12

Tabloid history

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I'd recommend this especially to someone interested in journalism or the history of journalism, as opposed to somebody interested in mysteries or crime stories.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I think the book dragged in places and could have been edited down to be more concise.

Any additional comments?

My expectation was that The Murder of the Century would be akin to a real life version of Caleb Carr's "Alienist." i.e. Unusual murder case in late 19th Century NYC. There is an element of that, but the suspect is brought to trial before the book is halfway through, and so more than half the book is devoted to the courtroom drama, with particular emphasis on how it was reported in the press, the rivalries between newspapers and their publishers, and the major personalities of the leading newspapermen (Pulitzer and Hearst especially).

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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War of the Newspapers!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Definitely! It was a great listen. New York City in the age of Tammany Hall and Pulitzer vs. Hearst duking it out in their tabloids. What's not to like?

What other book might you compare The Murder of the Century to and why?

Compulsion by Ira Levin, which was a novel about the Leopold/ Loeb murderers. This story is true though, and much more compelling because it is factual.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene I remember the most is when Augusta returns to the prison and asks for a job. I think she missed the attention she got as a high profile prisoner.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I enjoyed the book immensely but would never sit for 10 hours to finish any book...

Any additional comments?

This is a wonderfully written and narrated story about a real life murder in 1897 New York City. The most important thing about the narrative is the early police force, (fingerprints were not reliable at that time) and how the newsmen and women were just as likely to gather the clues as the cops. It was an important step in beginning a cohesive way to solve crimes and a lot of the people involved learned a great deal from being involved in this case.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Smask
  • 12-13-13

non fiction of the best kind

Where does The Murder of the Century rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Rates highly

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The most interesting aspect of the story is that it is true and it tells the story of the war between two great newspapers - Hearst and Pulitzer.

What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

That it is an interesting, shaded performance, he does show the different characters really well.

Any additional comments?

Hooked my interest from the beginning and held it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy
  • 04-13-16

Evocative murder mystery

A highly evocative and always engaging real-life murder mystery and courtroom drama as well as a social history of a forgotten era.

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  • darren
  • 07-27-15

Great story

Amazing fascinating insight into turn of the century New York and its people, a great crime story with many twists to boot! A great listen!